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At the automotiveIT Forum, Hochholdinger spoke about change in manufacturing (Photo: Jonas Wresch)

Former Audi executive Peter Hochholdinger will take charge of manufacturing at electric-car maker Tesla.

Hocholdinger, who has worked at Audi for 22 years, will be responsible for the production of Tesla's Model S sedan and Model X crossover and will play a key role in developing a scaleable, cost-efficient and high-quality manufacturing environment for the new Model 3.

Tesla has been struggling on the manufacturing side, as demand for its electric cars has exceeded its own forecasts. As a result, quality problems have marked more recent production runs and the company has been unable to meet its deadlines.

Now, the company needs to develop and start building a new version of its core Model S, while at the same time rolling out its new Model X and prepare for the launch of a new volume car, the Model 3. If all goes according to plan, Tesla's production volume will have to rise sharply.

According to press reports, two of Tesla’s top manufacturing executives, Greg Reichow and Josh Ensign, are leaving the company amid signs that the production ramp-up of the new Model X is experiencing difficulties,

Relative newcomers to the auto industry, including Tesla, Apple, Google and other California-based companies, have acknowledged that they have underestimated the complexity of building cars. Many have been hiring seasoned auto executives to help them gain the necessary expertise.

At Audi, Hochholdinger was in charge of production of the A4, A5 and Q5 models, which account for almost 400,000 units a year. He oversaw more than 10,000 manufacturing employees with an annual budget of 750 million euros.

Hochholdinger said last month that automakers have to change as new players, many of them from the IT industry, stake out a bigger role in the car industry. In a speech at the automotiveIT Forum, which focuses on new manufacturing technologies, the Audi executive cited the internet of things as a key enabler of much-needed change.

Inflexible, decentralized and expensive legacy IT as well as classic automation systems need to be transformed on the way to the networked factory, he said.

Audi is doing so with the help of a cloud-based IoT platform it is developing with Munich-based startup NextLAP. At the Hanover conference, Hochholdinger cited as an example of the new approach the so-called Smart Shelf developed by NextLAP. It uses Raspberry Pi mini computers that bring together logistics and manufacturing data. Processes can be optimized in real time with the help of deep-learning technologies.

Said Hochholdinger: "For me, production, logistics and IT are inseparable."

(Editor's note: The founders of NextLAP, former Audi executives Andre Ziemke and Thomas Stoeckel, have co-written a book that sets out their vision for the urgently needed transformation of car manufacturing. The book, which is published by the automotiveIT Group, can be ordered at: http://www.automotiveit.eu/production-4-0-new-paths-for-the-automotive-industry.)